Pilgrims' Progress Report, etc.

I just returned from the annual Midwest Pilgrims Retreat outside of Rockford, Illinois. It’s always refreshing to be in the company of good women. This band of sisters has been meeting for 24 years or so, and like the Exponent II retreats, we are beginning to see some second generation Pilgrims gathering with us. Even if I only get a few minutes of re-connection with the many kindred spirit gals there, I feel renewed, nourished and motivated.

For intellectual stimulation – and for stirring up stress levels – the topic of this retreat was polygamy. Kathryn Daynes, Professor of History at BYU, presented a detailed, articulate historical analysis of polygamy from 1840-1910, emphasizing the Utah period in Manti. Fascinating stuff! (Her book is “More Wives than One”, published by University of Illinois Press.). I feel much better informed and significantly more sympathetic for the families – men and women – trying to “live the principle” back in the day.

There were also discussions around HBO’s series “Big Love.” Since I’d reviewed “Big Love” for beliefnet.com, I’ve been ruminating over the polygamy issue for a while now. At one open question/discussion session folks batted around the conclusions some have drawn about the life hereafter regarding polygamy. Jana Riess – scholar, overall cool person, and co-author of “Mormonism for Dummies” and selector and annotator for “The Book of Mormon: Selections Annotated and Explained” – mused that she found it startling that women would set aside the scriptural promises of the next life that speak of peace, joy and rest but assume instead that God plans to consign them to a state of eternal life that they dread. I found that a very juicy observation.

I felt that throughout the weekend comments and conversations often traveled toward the notion of how little we really know. In a very moving testimony at Sacrament Meeting, Kathryn Daynes shared her convictions that what she does know about God is that God loves her – and each of us – beyond even our wildest abilities to comprehend. In our limited understanding we should hold on to the hope and promise that, above all, God loves us. Being a Mormon of minimalist theology, I felt “to sing the song of redeeming love” with her reminder.

This is a little report of the weekend. Some questions linger.
Many feelings still arise around the complex issue of polygamy. (I’ve maxed out on pondering that topic for a while, but have at it if you will!)

Relative to the rejuvenation I receive from attending retreats, here’s something I’d love to know your thoughts on:

When your current ward or branch is so drastically different from your comfort zone, how do you cope?
Where do you get your spiritual nourishment?
Or maybe your current ward is terrific (sounds like Pittsburgh is a little Utopia!), but concerns with the institutional church are confusing and confounding you, how do you make peace?
Especially, if this is the case for you, how do you make peace and stay committed to the Restored Gospel?
What supplemental sources do you have to feed your spirit?

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Out of curiousity– how many women attend the retreat, on average? And how does that compare to past years? Is attendance dropping as it is at Sunstone?

    And, for the folks in charge of the blog, if I’ve forgotten either my user name or password for this site, how do I recover them?

  2. jana says:

    1) When your current ward or branch is so drastically different from your comfort zone, how do you cope?
    Where do you get your spiritual nourishment?

    –I try to form friendships with the outliers of the ward. I suspect that if I feel left out, then others do, too. Having friends can make a lackluster ward a much better one.

    2) Or maybe your current ward is terrific, but concerns with the institutional church are confusing and confounding you, how do you make peace?

    –I find people on the Internet to chat with, or read X2 and Sunstone, etc.

    3) What supplemental sources do you have to feed your spirit?

    –Occasionally I take a break from church and work in my garden instead. I often feel more spiritually filled from an afternoon w/growing things than from 3 hours in uncomfortable chairs, wearing pantyhose, and struggling to stay awake.

    I guess I’ve come to see church as less as a place of spiritual renewal and more as a weekly ritual/social commitment. Doing so helps me not to be frustrated with the institution and frees me to seek spiritual fulfillment in other places.

  3. Caroline says:

    Linda,
    The retreat sounds wonderful. I definitely want to come sometime!

    My ward is really not very satisfying to me at the moment. It’s huge (almost 700 people) and Mormonism is so well established in Orange County that it feels like a Utah ward. However, like Jana, I’ve found a great group of intellectual/liberal Mormons that I can commiserate with in the halls or in bookgroups.

    I find spiritual nourishment outside of church. Through reading great novels, through doing things that I feel morally drawn to (like writing to senators to advocate animal rights), through appreciating nature, through forming connections with like-minded people, and through occassionally attending other faiths’ services. I’ve been very spiritually moved by some liberal and inclusive Christian sermons and hymns.

    The institutional church absolutely confounds and frustrates me at times. One way I’m learning to deal with it is by removing myself emotionally and spiritually from the things I find most hurtful. (For instance, I currently choose not to attend endowment ceremonies since I am extremely hurt by the hearken covenant women make.)

    I also am learning to deal with it by making a very clear distinction in my mind between the gospel and the church. The bare-bones gospel of Christ I can absolutely get behind and feel good about (I don’t include things like polygamy and gender roles in my definition of “bare-bones gospel”). The church is a huge institution run by men who are sometimes inspired and trying to do their best, but who are often constrained by their own cultural context. By separating these two in my mind, I find I am able to embrace God and not blame Him/Her for certain things about the institutional church that I find very troubling.

  4. Linda H K says:

    This year’s Midwest Pilgrims Retreat had 58 women on the roster. I think that’s a few more than past years. Attendance is not dropping. I think that is in large measure attributed to the new crop of younger women coming every year. (This year we had three babes in arms.) This year there were a number of new faces. Maybe the topic drew them?

  5. Melinda says:

    Your post mentions that God loves women, and that women should not assume that they’ll have to do something they think is miserable (polygamy) for eternity. I’ve heard that a lot – trust God because he loves you and you will be happy in heaven.

    I have no doubt I’ll be happy in heaven, but I have a suspicion that I wonder if anyone else shares. It goes like this: Are our ideas of gender equality all mixed up here on earth? What if men really are going to be in charge forever, and heaven is a patriarchy. After all, we have nothing but reliance on God’s fairness that women and men will even worship God together in the afterlife. And what if we’ve completely misunderstood what it means to be fair to men and women?

    The phrase “queen and priestess to the most high God” does not exist in scripture or in the temple. The D&C talks about men in the CK being “kings and priests to the most high God” and that men must be married to inherit the highest order of the CK, but it doesn’t say anything about their wives accompanying them there.

    And given the precedent we have here on earth, I’m not sure I get to worship God like a priesthood holder will be able to. President Hinckley said Sister Hinckley was his equal before God, but did she ever get to enter the Holy of Holies? Her husband did.

    Men must be married to get to the highest levels of the CK, but I harbor a secret fear that they’ll leave us outside while they worship God. Like on earth, a man must be sealed to a woman to be a bishop, say, or an apostle, but the woman does not share in his priesthood office. She stays home while he does his priesthood responsibilities.

    So the reason we’ll be happy in the Celestial Kingdom is because we’ll have unlearned all this crazy feminist rhetoric we get down here about how men and women are equal before God. Maybe we’re really not equal. Maybe heaven really is a patriarchy. Maybe I’ll wait with the rest of the wives in the second level of the CK while my husband goes to the first level for his priesthood meetings and worship services. And maybe I’ll think that’s a wonderful arrangement and I’ll marvel that I was so shortsighted in mortality that I ever thought anything different would be necessary to make me happy.

  6. AmyB says:

    “When your current ward or branch is so drastically different from your comfort zone, how do you cope?”

    What if the whole church is different from your comfort zone? This is where I am right now. Caroline has sage advice on separating out the bare-bones gospel from the institution. This blog continues to give me hope, sometimes I feel very alone in my views, but they are shared here in many ways.

    Melinda, your “what if” gave me the shivers. I can’t imagine a universe like that, where women would be subjugated for the eternities. I’m sickened that the church even hints at something like this.

  7. Deborah says:

    Thanks, Linda. I’ve read about this retreat and loved hearing a slice of it. Sounds wonderful

    You wrote, “In our limited understanding we should hold on to the hope and promise that, above all, God loves us. Being a Mormon of minimalist theology, I felt “to sing the song of redeeming love” with her reminder.”

    A Mormon of minimalist theology. I LOVE that and may co-opt the phrase. I am amazed by the certainty with which my fellow saints often talk about the pre and post earth life. We know next to nothing. A hazy model that’s been stretched past what it can sustain — heaven doesn’t belong in concrete terms; not in this mortal coil. But there is this notion of eternal beings, and continued progress, and a God who embodies love that surpasses understanding. Frankly, I am certain about very little except the eternal worth of souls and the goodness of God. A Mormon of minimalist theology. Thanks.

  8. Heather O. says:

    “After all, we have nothing but reliance on God’s fairness that women and men will even worship God together in the afterlife.”

    Sorry, but that’s just not true.

    “The phrase “queen and priestess to the most high God” does not exist in scripture or in the temple.”

    Yes it does. You need to go back to the temple and pay closer attention. To me, the temple is the exact place where it is astonishingly clear that women will not be pushed aside in the afterlife. Go do the initiatory again, and pay attention to the promises given when you are anointed with oil. You will find the phrases you are looking for. And pay attention to when you put on the temple clothing, particularly what it means to put on the robes. The wording during that time does not exclude women, and there are some powerful promises about what putting on those clothes means. And during the endowment, Adam and Eve are standing NEXT to one another, and receive the blessings together. Eve is not excluded from any of those blessings, and many of them involve the priesthood.

    I had a huge awakening the last time I went to the temple about the power of the preisthood, and it was made very clear to me that women will very much indeed be a part of that priesthood in the afterlife. It is not just promised to men that we will be creating worlds without end. That promise is extended to all. How will we be a part of that if we aren’t a part of the priesthood? I think we will find that it is our ideas about authority and priesthood that are culturally backwards on this earth, not ideals about gender equality. Truly there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our philosophy.

    Caroline, I find it heartbreaking that you don’t find the peace you are looking for in the temple with regards to how God views women. Like I said, that seems to me to be the only place where it is so clear what a powerful role women play now and in the eternities. I realize you have issues with how Eve is treated, but I do pray that you can go back and listen with a different perspective and realize how much God has promised all of us, not just the men.

  9. Heather O. says:

    Something else to think about. When the men are anointed, their blessings are “predicated upon their faithfulness”. The blessings given to the women do not include any such wording. And again, the wording in the initiatory make it quite clear that we will be worshipping WITH our husbands.

  10. Matt T. says:

    I too enjoyed the “Mormon of minimalist theology” phrase. If Linda or Deborah (or anyone else who feels this phrase applies to her/him) is still reading the comments to this post, I’d be curious to know how different your minimalist theology is from, say, a mainline Christian theology, or a minimalist mainline Christian theology. After stripping down Mormonism to its essentials, is there anything uniquely “Mormon” that remains? An example or two will suffice.

    I ask because I too find that “minimalist Mormon theology” describes my beliefs, and yet I’m not sure if anything uniquely Mormon (in terms of theology/doctrine) remains. Therefore I find the “Mormon” part of the phrase “minimalist Mormon theology” describes more my Cultural/Community ties to Mormonism, or how I self-identify, rather than anything specifically related to Mormon theology that isn’t found in other religious traditions.

  11. Deborah says:

    Matt said: After stripping down Mormonism to its essentials, is there anything uniquely “Mormon” that remains? An example or two will suffice.

    My favorites:

    1)pre-mortal existence as unique beings

    2)a flowing view of the afterlife (e.g. not a rigid heaven/hell system, but one that allows for limitless progression, continued relationships, etc). I find that in some ways this mirrors more closely Buddhist and Hindu beliefs than mainstream Christian theology — (e.g. reincarnation is an alternate way of looking at “eternal progression”).

  12. Caroline says:

    I also love the phrase “Mormon of minimalist theology.” I’ll definitely be adopting it.

    Matt, I second Deborah’s comment about the afterlife. I find the Mormon idea of divine potential and eternal progression uniquely Mormon and uniquely liberating and inspiring. I’m happy to hold on to that as I prune away other Mormon folk doctrines/ideas that I feel are not uplifting and empowering for all people.

  13. Caroline says:

    Heather O: I’m glad you find the temple so inspiring. Thank goodness it does that for some women. And I love the fact that you had that realization that women will have priesthood in some sense in the next life. I believe this as well.

    It’s been 4 years since I’ve done an endowment, so I certainly could be wrong about this, but I thought women were not “queens and priestesses to the most high God.” I thought they were queens and priestesses unto their husbands.

    I’ve only done initiatories once (my own), so I don’t remember that portion very well. Maybe I’ve forgotten something there that does promise women status independent of their husbands. (However, I wish I could forget the way they blessed my ears…the hearken thing rearing its ugly head again.)

    So unfortunately, it’s not just how Eve is treated, it’s all women having to make that covenant that really bothers me. I think I will definitely go back sometime in my life, but I’m pretty sure it will be after that covenant changes. (Too much of an emotional breakdown last time I tried to do it.) And I have absolute faith in God that it will change.

    As a side note, you mention that men’s blessings are predicated on their faithfulness, but not women’s. That doesn’t make much sense to me. Anyone have any ideas why this would be the case?

    Another strange disparity is that in the men’s initiatories it mentions burdens that WILL be placed upon them. In women’s it’s burdens that MAY be placed upon them. I find that discrepancy annoying. As if every woman on earth hasn’t had to deal with some type of burden.

  14. Fran says:

    Im sorry that so many people in the world shun things (the temple) that they so clearly do not understand. It saddens me most that they do not realize that the temple is the place God has set up for us to be taught by him directly. The fact that you (Caroline) can make comments about things that you have only done once – and about things you have never even experienced (the men’s portion) seems a bit odd to me

  15. Caroline says:

    Sorry you’re saddened, Fran. I’m saddened too that I and many other women are left to question God’s love for them because of ambiguous and/or questionable things in the temple. Glad it works for you though. To each her own.

    Just because I only experienced initiatories once (I’ve done endowments more) does not, I think, discount my experience or feelings. But like I said, if I was incorrect about any of my facts, please correct me.

    Because of my painful experience, I have done quite a bit of reading and conversing about the temple, so I don’t feel that I am a complete ignoramus. My husband is the one who told me about the “burden” discrepency when some leader gave a talk in the temple about the difference between the women’s temple experience and the men’s. Very interesting.

  16. Heather O. says:

    Caroline-

    You could be right about the wording of “unto their husbands” in the initiatory, but I checked with DH, and even he says he thinks the term “priests and priestesses unto the most high God” is in the endowment. I strongly urge you to go back to the temple and deliberately try to experience it differently, regardless. Ironically, I think it is the one place in Mormondom where the patriarchal nature of the church doesn’t come into play. Yes, it is a man officiating at the endowment, but women are involved with very crucial points of the ceremony. And as a former temple worker, I can tell you that women do as much if not more in running the temple. For example, the shift supervisors, or at least the one for our shift, was a woman. The veil director is a woman. And of course, there is the ideal experience in the initiatory where women are officiating to women. It can be an incredibly beautiful and moving experience, a safe haven from all of the particularly annoying things about Mormon culture. I feel it is one place where you can truly worship God, practicing pure religion outside of a cultural context.

    As far as the men’s promises go, I don’t know why there is a disparity. It possibly just means that God expects different things from us. The differences actually don’t bother me in the least. At the very most, they are just interesting, but certainly nothing that implies that God favors men.

    Sorry for the threadjack. Um, yea for the retreat!

  17. AmyB says:

    Matt: “I’d be curious to know how different your minimalist theology is from, say, a mainline Christian theology, or a minimalist mainline Christian theology. After stripping down Mormonism to its essentials, is there anything uniquely “Mormon” that remains? An example or two will suffice.”

    I love the minimalist theology descriptor as well. I think we’ve got a gem here.

    At present I’m not left with anything uniquely Mormon when I strip it down to what I can really believe in, or even like that much. I’m starting to find Buddhism very attractive.

    I do like the idea of eternal progression. But for the most part, its the community/cultural aspect of Mormonism that keeps me self-identifying as Mormon.

  18. Heather O. says:

    One more thought- even if there isn’t language that suggests that a woman has, as you put it, “status” independent of their husbands, that shouldn’t be all that surprising. The culmination of the entire temple ceremony is the sealing, where husband and wife are joined together. I doubt there is any language that puts a male’s status independent of a woman, either. That’s just not the point of the temple, nor is it part of God’s plan. Throughout the entire endowment we are told that we should act as Adam and Eve, who are certainly never independent of one another. That’s why Adam partook of the fruit–so that he would not be a lone man in the garden of Eden! There is nothing about the temple or the plan of salvation that suggests status independent of a spouse, therefore you are not going to find such language in the temple.

  19. Caroline says:

    Thanks Heather. I have to go teach Latin now, so I’ll only address one thing briefly. I should have been more clear when I mentioned status independent of the husband. I was referring to language that is applied to men. They are kings and priests unto the most high god. Women (as far as i know – will ask around more) are queens and priests unto their husbands. Therefore men’s glory is not tied to their spouse in the way women’s is. So I was just expressing a wish for equity in that kind of language.

    (Personally I’m actually pretty happy with the idea of my eternal future being totally intertwined with my husband’s – he’s awesome – though I wonder what that idea does to people who have bad marriages etc.)

  20. Jessey says:

    People who have bad marriages will most likely not be sealed to each other. For a bad marriage to be set right, someone (or both) needs to repent – if you dont repent, having been sealed doesnt really matter.

  21. Heather O. says:

    “Therefore men’s glory is not tied to their spouse in the way women’s is”

    Again, I have to disagree. I think it is. Even if the endowment does say that men will be priests unto the most high God, it is very clear that he can’t do it without a woman. A man’s glory is tied to his spouse’s in the exact same way a woman’s glory it tied to her spouse. They are completely interconnected, and glory can never be realized by either one without a union of sexes. That means that glory comes to both, with interdepedence being the key. That leaves, of course, the question of what happens to the men and women of this world who never marry, but that is a different post entirely. Still, the temple makes it excruciatingly clear that Adam will get nowhere without Eve.

  22. Caroline says:

    Heather,
    I agree. Other parts of the temple and other doctrinal things make it clear that a man and woman have to be together to get to the top. I just wish that the language was equitable and reinforced for both sexes that their futures are intertwined and interdependent. Having women be queens to husbands and men be kings to god creates an inequitable hierarchy (IMO).

  23. Jennifer says:

    Once upon a time I stood up and pledged to sacrifice whatever was needed for the gospel. I found the most difficult thing to sacrifice was my pride, and it took a while. Its something I highly recommend. I have found that Gods ideas are better than my ideas about things.

  24. Heather O. says:

    Of course, when it comes down to it, I’m not really sure what the language totally means. A priestess unto my husband? Hmm, not quite clear what that would entail. A king unto the most high God? Again, not too clear, so maybe the ambiguity of the language makes an argument about any of it entirely superficial.

  25. Matt T. says:

    Jennifer said: “Once upon a time I stood up and pledged to sacrifice whatever was needed for the gospel. I found the most difficult thing to sacrifice was my pride…”

    Matt reponds: What one considers the “sacrificing of pride” another may consider the sacrificing of dignity, conscience, or even God-given testimony. I realize this is hard for someone (not saying *you* necessarily) who believes the temple to be the end-all-be-all of God’s one true Church. We all have individual relationships with God which sometimes leads to choices that are at odds with the community. So I’ll give Caroline the benefit of the doubt and assume her reluctance to return to the temple (at least for now), is *not* a case of stubborn pride.

    Jennifer said: “I have found that Gods ideas are better than my ideas about things.”

    Matt responds: I agree. As, I assume, does Caroline, which is why she has chosen not to return to the temple, for now. The issue isn’t “God’s ideas”, but what the Church teaches are “God’s ideas”. The Church has changed what “God’s ideas” are many times in the past, (with regards to the endowment ceremony and myriad other things) and it stands to reason that they will change his ideas again in the future.

    I’d venture to guess that there are aspects of your own personal beliefs that don’t line up 100% with Mormon Doctrine. We all have them, the “Minimalist Mormons” probably more so than others. For some of these non-aligning beliefs it is easy to simply overlook them, for others we feel more strongly and make a stand. That stand could be simple non-participation (i.e. not attending the temple), or it could lead one to speak out (i.e. Lavina F. Anderson with regards to ecclesiastical abuse). Some might even feel “called” to make a stand. It happens at all levels of the Church, even in the Q12.

    To no one in particular: I find the varied reactions of people (whether first time or long time attendees) to the temple to be one of the most fascinating aspects of Mormonism. It is the only time those born in the Church (B.I.C.)will ever truly feel what it feels like to be a “Convert”. I mean this in the sense of confronting something wholly “new” (which could be strange or beautiful or both, depending on your dna or personal experience) for the first time, not unlike confronting a new religion. All other equally strange and/or beautiful aspects of Mormonism are naturally exposed to those B.I.C. together with all other aspects of life as we grow up.

  26. Katie says:

    Melinda said: “The phrase “queen and priestess to the most high God” does not exist in scripture or in the temple.”

    Well, if the words of the prophets are scripture, then actually the phrase can be found therein.

    John Taylor JD 1:37:
    Have you forgot who you are, and what your object is? Have you forgot that you profess to be Saints of the Most High God, clothed upon with the Holy Priesthood? Have you forgot that you are aiming to become Kings and Priests to the Lord, and Queens and Priestesses to Him?

    And here he seems to be addressing those who have the fullness of the priesthood:

    John Taylor JD 5:189-190:
    What are we engaged in? We are engaged in building up the kingdom of God, and many of you have been ordained by the revelations of the Almighty to hold the power and authority of the Holy Priesthood. Besides this, you have been ordained kings and queens, and priests and priestesses to your Lord; you have been put in possession of principles that all the kings, potentates, and powers upon the earth are entirely ignorant of: they do not understand it; but you have received this from the hands of God.

    I do wish it was in the temple though. Caroline is right, the phrase is not part of the endowment ceremony. But perhaps it is part of the initiatory, I haven’t done that part again since my first.

  27. Jennifer says:

    Matt,
    I understand what you are saying, but in the end “sacrificing everything” includes pride as well as “dignity, conscience, or even God-given testimony”

  28. Matt T. says:

    amyb said: “At present I’m not left with anything uniquely Mormon when I strip it down to what I can really believe in, or even like that much. I’m starting to find Buddhism very attractive.”

    Matt responds: Interesting. I asked because I’m not sure if anything uniquely Mormon remains (besides Cultural things) in my own Minimalist Mormon Theology. That said, as a lifelong Mormon, I’m sure there is more Mormonism in my belief system than meets the eye; in fact it probably colors (to some degree) all of my beliefs.

    As for Buddhism, I’d be interested in learning more, especially since I served a mission to (primarily Buddhist) Taiwan. That said, I happen to be currently reading Michael Newton’s “Journey of Souls” (was exposed to it at a Sunstone Symposium) which is primarily about our souls’ journey through the spirit world between lives. My first exposure to it was typically skeptical, and yet the more I read (and more importantly, the more I think/ponder), the less strange and more beautiful the ideas presented in the book become. Not only that, what at first seemed a far cry from Mormonism, now seems to resemble Mormon Doctrine more and more, at least in its broad strokes: eternal progression, individual spirit, and even, to a certain extent, “eternal families”. In many ways I find this model makes more sense (and is more comforting) than the Mormon model of the afterlife.

  29. Caroline says:

    Jennifer, that’s not the God I believe in. My God would never want me to betray my conscience, my spiritual convictions, or my desire for goodness and justice.

    Though I realize we as Mormons have a legacy where such things were apparently required, it still doesn’t jive with my vision of a loving God.

    Katie, thanks for those great quotes. I wonder if those quotes were from a time when women’s position in the temple was different than it is now. My understanding is that Joseph’s Smith’s original endowment ceremony did not have a different obedience covenant for men and women.

  30. Jennifer says:

    I guess I dont understand what you are after then Caroline. Is your God the correct LDS God, or is it the God of all our Mormon forebears you mentioned? As you say, he has frequently required giving up things precious to the saints in the past. What makes us any more special or different?

  31. Matt T. says:

    Jennifer said: “I understand what you are saying, but in the end “sacrificing everything” includes pride as well as “dignity, conscience, or even God-given testimony” “

    Matt’s response: Yes, but you are assuming the Church 100% represents God’s will/truth/etc. I am not making that assumption. I wonder if Caroline is? In any case, I think the Church would support the idea that personal testimony from God is **more** binding than advice from God’s third party institution. If so, Caroline (or anyone else) had better follow her personal testimony. This kind of sacrifice (going against one’s community and family), it could be argued, is even more difficult than sacrificing one’s pride and going with the flow.

    In any case it is an interesting question. I understand your side and can see the merits each approach. One of the things I like best about Mormonism is that it encourages each individual to seek a personal relationship with God. (And yet Mormonism also requires a high degree of conformity, both in terms of belief and outward appearences…)

  32. Caroline says:

    Matt, thanks for your kind interpretation of my difficult situation, and your wise words about the nuanced way different people experience and come to God.

    I absolutely agree. My issue isn’t with God’s ideas, it’s with the institution’s promulgation of what early leaders thought were god’s ideas. I refuse to believe in a God that would want his daughters to make such a promise. I think that probably quite a lot of current GA’s are uncomfortable with it, but change in such a huge institution is slow and difficult.

    I simply believe that the parts of the ceremonies that I have issues with are cultural artifacts from the Victorian era that have been retained. That is my own personal interpretation. Others, of course, are free to approach such things however they want to.

    I love how there are so many paths to God. For some, it’s through pure faith, obedience, and reliance on leaders. For others it’s through grappling, thinking, talking and challenging. Different approaches, but hopefully a similar end for everyone, if our hearts are in the right place.

  33. Jennifer says:

    Matt,
    “I think the Church would support the idea that personal testimony from God is **more** binding than advice from God’s third party institution.” I agree with this. I do no think this is true with regard to revealed guidance through his prophet, and I do not believe God would ever inspire anyone to stay away from the Temple.

  34. Matt T. says:

    Okay… one more post…

    Caroline said: “I do no think this is true with regard to revealed guidance through his prophet, and I do not believe God would ever inspire anyone to stay away from the Temple.”

    Matt responds: I can accept this answer, if this is what God has told you. Although I wonder:

    When Sarah Pratt, wife of apostle Orson Pratt (far away from Nauvoo on a mission for the Church), was approached by Joseph Smith and asked to become one of his wives and she felt understandably horrified, responding, “My sex shall not be disgraced, nor my honor sullied. I believe no such revelations, neither will I consent, under any circumstances whatever. I have one good husband, and that is enough for me,” was she justified, or should she have gone against her own conscience/testimony and followed the advice of the Prophet?

    Or when the young Joseph Smith, through study, prayer, and personal experience, decided that all of the community Churches were wrong, that he would not be governed by their false or corrupt teachings, did the leaders of the Methodist, Presbyterian, and Baptist churches tell him not to follow his own testimony from God because they “do not believe God would ever inspire anyone to stay away from [their Churches]”?

    The examples are endless, and I haven’t even considered non-LDS examples yet.

  35. AmyB says:

    Matt said: “As for Buddhism, I’d be interested in learning more, especially since I served a mission to (primarily Buddhist) Taiwan. That said, I happen to be currently reading Michael Newton’s “Journey of Souls” (was exposed to it at a Sunstone Symposium) which is primarily about our souls’ journey through the spirit world between lives. My first exposure to it was typically skeptical, and yet the more I read (and more importantly, the more I think/ponder), the less strange and more beautiful the ideas presented in the book become. Not only that, what at first seemed a far cry from Mormonism, now seems to resemble Mormon Doctrine more and more, at least in its broad strokes: eternal progression, individual spirit, and even, to a certain extent, “eternal families”. In many ways I find this model makes more sense (and is more comforting) than the Mormon model of the afterlife”

    Wow, Matt, everything you have written so far has articulated my own thoughts and feelings. The more I look at ideas about reincarnation and some other beliefs, the more they seem strikingly similar to Mormon theology. I too have found some of these models a bit more comforting, and they make more sense to me.

  36. Matt T. says:

    Okay… one more…

    Caroline said: “I love how there are so many paths to God. For some, it’s through pure faith, obedience, and reliance on leaders. For others it’s through grappling, thinking, talking and challenging. Different approaches, but hopefully a similar end for everyone, if our hearts are in the right place.”

    Matt responds: First let me say I did not mean to speak for you since you do a much better job speaking for yourself. I simply superimposed your temple issues onto my own “grappling-with-issues” experiences and answered accordingly.

    And I really like the quote I pasted above. Very well said. It is something I’d thought about before in a vague sort of way, but to see it articulated with such clarity really made it hit home. So, so true. It is a shame when we make “grappling, thinking, talking, and challenging” a crime, as for some it is the only path to God. It wasn’t until I embraced my doubts (as oppossed to putting them on the shelf and going by blind faith) that God really came alive for me.

  37. Heather O. says:

    “I love how there are so many paths to God. For some, it’s through pure faith, obedience, and reliance on leaders. For others it’s through grappling, thinking, talking and challenging. Different approaches, but hopefully a similar end for everyone, if our hearts are in the right place.”

    Careful, Caroline. That’s a nice sentiment, but it comes awfully close to saying, “YOU find God through faith without thinking and blindly following the leaders, but I’ll find God through THOUGHT and QUESTIONING.”

    I’m sure you didn’t mean it that way, and I’m sure you don’t want insinuate that people who sustain the leaders of our church and exercise their faith are not thinking individuals. Make sure that you don’t imply that people who disagree with you or have different experiences than you do so because they haven’t thought it all through yet. It does everybody a disservice.

  38. Caroline says:

    Heather, certainly. I don’t want to question others’ faith journeys. How they go about it – thoughtfully, I assume – is unique and personal and in no way anything for me to criticize.

    I was simply commenting on different ways we come to know God and the spirit. There are no value judgements there and no assumptions of a “blind sheep” mentality. I should go back and edit out the word “thinking” if it seems to imply that others aren’t thinking.

  39. Nate Oman says:

    Caroline: How do you go about differentiating between those things that are of God and those things that are cultural artifacts? You seem to be offering up three criteria:

    1. Your conscience.
    2. Your notion of justice.
    3. Your notion of goodness.

    Aren’t those equally cultural artifacts, or have we somehow managed to escape culture in a way that our Victorian forebearers have not? My point here is not that the distinction between culture and gospel is not important, simply that in operational terms it is difficult to figure out what it means other than, “I don’t think that the Gospel could consist of something that I don’t already believe.” The problem, it seems to me, is that this approach deprives the Gospel of the power to change our beliefs. Yet it seems to me that one of the reasons that God chooses to interact with humanity is to change us. One of the great intellectual virtues of blind obedience, ie changing our beliefs in the face of statements from authority, is that it holds out the possibility of recieving a message that does more than simply reassure us that what we already think is right.

    (Of course, “blind obedience” has its own set of difficulties, but one ought not to ignore the very real intellectual problem that it provides a solution for.)

  40. Caroline says:

    To answer an earlier question of Jennifer’s, I would not be comfortable saying that my God is the correct LDS God. I think God is a whole lot bigger than than the Mormon church.

    Jennifer said:
    Matt,
    “I think the Church would support the idea that personal testimony from God is **more** binding than advice from God’s third party institution.” I agree with this. I do no think this is true with regard to revealed guidance through his prophet.

    For me, the question always comes down to: is this an inspired revelation as God would have us hear it, or is it someone’s personal best efforts that may include some facets of their own personality, culture, or unique understanding? I think as LDS it is encumbant on each of us to figure out when our leaders are speaking as prophets and when they are speaking as men. This is where personal revelation can come in. I love that we are encouraged to figure out truth for ourselves through the spirit.

    Matt, absolutely no need to apologize. I feel as if you understand where I am coming from very well, and I love the points you are making. (Want to do a guest post sometime? :))

  41. Caroline says:

    Nate,
    Excellent points. I have no great rebuttals as I really like your point about the power of the gospel being in its ability to change us. I suppose my answer to your initial question is that I would hope my conscience (i.e. the Spirit) would transcend culture in some ways and at some times.

    So what are we left with in the end? As you’ve pointed out “blind obedience” has its problems. So does going with your own personal convictions. Bottom line for me, I suppose, is that we just have to do what we think is right and what God wants us to do. Sometimes listening and obeying prophetic counsel, sometimes going with our own inner convictions and revelations.

    As I mentioned before, if our heart is in the right place, if our ideals and desires are noble, kind, and Christian, I think God will probably be pretty understanding with us either way.

  42. Nate Oman says:

    Caroline: Fair enough. It is simply worth pointing out that always following one’s own sense of what is right is not without risks. There is always the possiblity that one is simply worshipping an idol of one’s own making, etc. etc. I do think that there is a real myopia involve in creating a dicotomy between “Thinkers” and “Followers”. The “Followers” are not somehow abdicating moral responsiblity or thought. Furthermore, the “Thinkers” are fequently simply ignoring real intellectual problems. In a trivial sense we are all simply doing what we think is right in the sense that we act as we do because we think it is best to do so. Hence, I am not sure how much content there really is to this injunction. The difficulty comes in figuring out what is best.

    As for God, I’ve no doubt that he will be loving and merciful to all. This doesn’t mean, however, that we aren’t also sometimes wrong, even when we are just trying to do what we think is right.

  43. Caroline says:

    As for God, I’ve no doubt that he will be loving and merciful to all. This doesn’t mean, however, that we aren’t also sometimes wrong, even when we are just trying to do what we think is right.

    Absolutely. When we are following our own conscience and sense of right, there is of course a risk that we are wrong. But I would also like to throw out the idea that there is also the chance at times that we are wrong if we go along with church leaders’ injunctions and ignore our own personal revelation or better judgement.

    Here’s an example from last week’s sacrament meeting. A new couple moved into our ward. The woman told how she met her husband who was a non-member. How she was absolutely convinced that she should marry him even though he wasn’t Mormon, even though she had been taught over and over again to marry in the temple. She married him and he did later convert and she’s convinced that she did what God wanted her to do, even though it went against counsel.They are both fabulously happy with the way it turned out.

    So it seems to me like God can work both ways. Through leaders’ counsel and through personal revelation that might even contradict leaders’ counsel. As you said before, the trick is trying to figure out what is truly the best thing to do.

  44. Jennifer says:

    Caroline,
    Am I correct in the assuption that you do not view Temple Attendance and completing work for the dead as a commandment?

  45. Matt T. says:

    Nate makes some good observations, but I think there is a “yin” to his every “yang”…

    Nate suggests Caroline’s beliefs may be “cultural artifacts”, referring to them as: 1.) *Your* conscience, 2.) *Your* notion of justice, and 3.) *Your* notion of goodness. This assumes they came from Caroline and her surrounding culture, and not from God. Of course this can be just as easily turned around on Nate and Jennifer? Are their conscience and notions of justice and goodness not also “cultural artifacts”, in this case arising from LDS culture? Can we not say to Nate or Jennifer that their beliefs are merely “*your* conscience”, and maybe not from God? Nate seems to suggest such when he says “…we are all simply doing what we think is right in the sense that we act as we do because we think it is best to do so.”

    Nate correctly points out that “following one’s own sense of what is right is not without risks. There is always the possiblity that one is simply worshipping an idol of one’s own making.” However, it is also risky to blindly follow an authority or institution (as Nate alludes). But I’ll take it a step further… one could argue that blind faith in the institution (or the prophet) is a form of idolatry. It certainly is if you believe God has told you one thing, but you continue to do the opposite because the institution tells you to.

    Finally Nate says that relying solely upon one’s conscience and not utilizing faith “deprives the Gospel of the power to change our beliefs.” Once again though, the opposite is also true. Relying solely upon one’s faith, and ignoring one’s God-given conscience and notion of justice/goodness deprives God of the power to change our beliefs. I know too many spiritually immature (IMO) LDS who robotically march in step with the institution.

    As it is with many things, a healthy balance is required. The pitfalls of 100% blind faith or 100% self reliance are obvious. A mature person will “test drive” alternatives, assuming such is possible. Caroline appears to have done just that with regards to the temple. The most spiritually mature people I know (both LDS or otherwise) are those who appear to have found that balance.

    The funny thing is, even if we all strike that healthy faith/conscience balance, our conclusions will infintitely vary. The Universalist in me thinks that this does not matter, in fact it may even be the point — Jennifer will be rewarded for faithfully worshiping God in the temple, and Caroline will be rewarded for faithfully worshiping God in her way. They will be rewarded because they are actively seeking God.

  46. Jennifer says:

    In my view, not attending the Temple because parts of it aggrivates you is cutting off your nose to spite your face. My daughter will routinely try to refuse to take the medicine that quite literally keeps her from perishing because it tastes bad going down. We are not here just for ourselves, we are here to help others too. Both live and dead. The Temple has great blessings to bestow that are available nowhere else on earth. To reject those blessings because it is not perfect is the equivalent of rejecting the gospel as a whole because the leaders arent perfect. I do not believe someone will be blessed for turning from where God has told them he will be and seeking him somewhere else.

  47. jana says:

    Jennifer (and others):
    I think it is virtually _impossible_ for us all to be doing everythig we are ‘commanded’ to do. Are we each perfect at our callings, our VT’ing, our geneaolgy work & temple attendance, our parenting, our scripture study, keeping the WoW (all of it and not just the forbidden substances), food storage, etc??

    If Caroline has chosen to put the temple on the shelf for awhile, she can still be active in numerous other LDS pursuits (for example, I happen to know that she is actively organizing a RS special interest group, she attends Institute class every week, she is preparing for her first chld, etc). IMO, this does not show a _rejection_ of the gospel as a whole.

    Also, Caroline has taken out her endowments and married in the temple. That means that she has all of these blessing whether or not she ever returns to do proxy work. Again, she has not _rejected_ the temple, or the gospel (she hasn’t asked to have her temple sealing cancelled or had her name removed from the church). Rather, she’s doing her best to be an active LDS despite her issues with the temple.

  48. AmyB says:

    I think part of the beauty of life is that we all have our agency. I think everyone here is honestly and valiantly trying to use their agency in the best way they know how.

    I personally think this would be a very dreary world if everyone was part of the LDS church and lived exactly the way it said (I’m sure some will disagree, and they are free to do so.) I’m so thankful for the many ways people choose to live out their lives and the richness it creates.

    It is human nature to judge, and I am certainly guilty of it, but in my utopia we would all appreciate each other’s journeys without judging if they are right or good.

  49. Jennifer says:

    Jana

    What I said was my opinion that rejecting the blessings of the Temple because the ceremony isnt perfect would be analogous of rejecting the gospel because the leaders are not perfect.
    I never said that Caroline or any one else has rejected anything. I never said that anyone was planning on rejecting anything for a short time or forever. I never made any implications whatsoever to anyones activity in the church or to being perfect. That is why I started my statement with the phrase “In my view…”.
    Please read more carefully.

  50. Heather O. says:

    Ok, just got back from the temple. Indeed, women are queens and priestesses unto their husbands, but immediately following that is a statement about coming forth as kings and queens, priests and priestesses. Also, there is the phrase in the initiatory that we “rule and reign” with our husbands. So there you go.

  51. AmyB says:

    Jennifer, comments such as

    this:
    “Caroline,
    Am I correct in the assuption that you do not view Temple Attendance and completing work for the dead as a commandment?”

    this:
    “I do not believe God would ever inspire anyone to stay away from the Temple”

    and this:
    “In my view, not attending the Temple because parts of it aggrivates you is cutting off your nose to spite your face” (in response to Caroline stating why she personally does not attend)

    make me feel like you are directly attacking Caroline and her beliefs. This is probably not what you meant to do at all. However, I wanted to share my own reaction because you seem surprised and perhaps frustrated or angry that people are coming to her defense. It is very easy to misread and misunderstood on the blogs, and sometimes I don’t realize how I am coming across. I hope some feedback is helpful to you- if not please disregard.

  52. Jennifer says:

    I am not attacking Caroline or her beliefs. I am just stating how I feel about things. Everyone here always seems to say they like to hear opinions, so I am simply stating mine. I am neither surprised or angry that Jana made some assumptions. I was just trying to clarify things.

    As to my previous question to Caroline, I will ask all those here. Do you believe that continued Temple attendance is a commandment? (Geographic considerations being taken into account of course)

  53. AmyB says:

    I don’t personally think that continued temple attendance is a commandment. The issue at hand may be what one’s definition of commandment is. It’s not that clear to me.

  54. Caroline says:

    I’m not highly interested in continuing to try to justify decisions I’ve made that I feel are right for me right now.

    I don’t how familiar you are with blogs, Jennifer, but here’s a tip that I try to go by when interacting online. Making statements to someone else about their righteousness/lack of righteousness is usually not the most conducive to a meaningful conversation. This tends to get people’s backs up. Disagreement is fine, but sticking to your own personal experience is a much better way to disagree than commenting critically about someone else’s.

    Thanks Jana, AmyB, for support 🙂

  55. Melinda says:

    Thanks for the exact wording Heather. That is how I remember it. There are collective references to kings and queens, priests and priestesses to the most high God, but when it’s broken out, the men are the kings and priests to the most high God and the women are queens and priestesses to their husbands.

    I’d forgotten that we “rule and reign” together. Thank you for that.

    There’s been some interesting discussion about how our cultural attitudes affect our notions of justice. I don’t understand why our attitude of equality is somehow the right one, when for thousands of years, the norm has been that the men are in charge of religious worship. (With the obvious caveat that abuses of power have always been wrong.)

    I look at the scriptures, history, and current practices, and all of them reinforce the idea that men are in charge and the women are in a supporting role. Women are very beloved, very necessary, and very respected, but are in a supporting role. Is it so bad to just be in a supporting role through all eternity? Maybe we’ll think it’s great.

    Certainly the Church has never put women right up there with men in anything except flowery rhetoric and sincere goodwill towards the feminine sex. Yes, men have to be married to be exalted, but men also have to be married to do a lot of things in the Church, and their wife doesn’t go with them. Sister Hinckley was not the Prophetess. The wives of the apostles are not Sister Apostles; they’re just wives. The wife of the bishop is not a co-bishop; same with the wife of a stake president. Mission president wives do have a larger role than most wives do in relation to their husbands’ priesthood callings.

    I guess I just don’t see any indications the pattern will change in the next life. Here’s a future god giving a talk: “and I’d like to thank my incredible wife, my queen and my priestess. Without her, I wouldn’t be able to be a king and priest.” It doesn’t mean she’s anything besides his support system, any more than a modern apostle praising his wife can elevate her to his calling. The fact that a man has to be married to do something does not mean his wife gets to share in his opportunities.

    Maybe it isn’t a degrading role, and we’ll be glad to have it. Maybe the idea that we ought to be right up there with the men is just feminist rhetoric forced on the Church by outside cultural changes. If God wants us to give up our pride, why not ask us to give up on equality as well? If you’re loved enough, is equality really necessary in order to be happy?

  56. Jennifer says:

    I am sorry, but I have never made any comments about someones righteousness during this disscussion. If you think I have, please point it out. As I said previously, all I have done is state my opinion.

  57. Caroline says:

    Heather,
    Thanks for the update. I’m glad the “unto your husband” is balanced out with “reign with your husband.”

    Matt,
    Thanks again for your comments. I appreciate your perspective as you are able to articulate things I also have thought much about.

  58. Jennifer says:

    AmyB,
    Thank you for your answer. I somehow – not sure exactly how – feel that continued attendance is a commandment, and is sometimes the only reason that I end up going. Im sorry I evidently dont fit the mold for disscussion here. I didnt think asking a few questions was that big of a deal.

  59. Matt T. says:

    Melinda said: “Women are very beloved, very necessary, and very respected, but are in a supporting role. Is it so bad to just be in a supporting role through all eternity? Maybe we’ll think it’s great.” etc. etc.

    Matt’s Response: Wow! Watch out Melinda, you appear to be on the fast track to be a General Relief Society President!!! If any of the powers-that-be are watching Exponent II, I guarantee your record has been flagged with a “Very Promising Future” sticker. They might have you hidden away in the Nursery right now, but with political and spiritual views like that, I’d expect a big, important calling is waiting for you just around the corner. 🙂

  60. Matt T. says:

    Caroline:

    Thanks for your kind words. I should tell you that I only found out about Exponent II by hearing you speak recently at Miller-Eccles in Orange County. I was very impressed by what you had to say. Futhermore, I think I sat behind you and your husband at Sunstone West for the Big Love panel discussion. Speaking of which, I’m disappointed you haven’t blogged about that discussion yet. I’m curious what you thought about the two polygamist women and their self-professed feminist credentials?

  61. paula says:

    Jennifer, I think that, as Amy B. pointed out, you didn’t mean to sound as though you were criticizing Caroline, but it did sound to some of us as though you were. As for me, I’ll accept your comments as just trying to understand where Caroline is coming from. I’m curious as to why you would classify continued temple attendance as a “commandment”. How would you define commandment? My own opinion is that it’s not a commandment, but I’m not sure how I’d define that. There are a lot of things we’re expected to do that aren’t commandments, and it seems to me that continued temple attendance is one of them. It was very normal a hundred years or so ago, to not ever go back after getting one’s own endowments, and work for the dead did not have nearly as much emphasis– so if it’s a commandment, it doesn’t seem to me to rank up there with, say, tithing. I’m curious when you say that you sometimes only go because you feel it’s a commandment. Are there things about the temple that you’re uncomfortable with, or is it a time issue etc? I’m just curious to your reaction. For me, I quit going some time ago. I’m not saying I’ll never go, but there several things about the whole experience that are troubling to me, and I feel that I do better with church if I don’t go to the temple, well, and frankly, if I keep myself only loosely connected to my current ward.

  62. Melinda says:

    Matt T. – thanks for that. It made me laugh. But I don’t have the spiritual energy anymore to want to be a leader in the Church anywhere. I’m a bit disenchanted with the whole idea of exaltation; hence my non-PC ideas that women might really be the support staff. I’m trying to justify my failure to live up to my youthful expectations of myself. 🙂

  63. Caroline says:

    Matt, Did I talk to you at Miller Eccles and Sunstone? Are you the dark haired bearded guy? Just trying to figure out who you are. (Glad you like my Miller Eccles thing, by the way :))

    I have mixed feelings about the polygamist issue. On the one hand, I really like to think of myself as a pluralist who believes in different strokes for different folks. So part of me wants to affirm the polygamist women’s experiences and be happy for them that they have somehow found this situation liberating and healthy.

    But on the other hand, I think there are some things you just have to be a universalist about. Like I’m pretty comfortable saying that cruelty is wrong on a universal level. I also am very tempted to say that a system of marriage and gender relations that is so fundamentally inequitable is also fundamentally not optimal. So I find myself ultimately unable to go along with their claims of liberation and freedom.

    What about you? What did you think?

  64. Matt T. says:

    No, we did not speak at either Miller Eccles or Sunstone. I do not have a beard or dark hair but am clean shaven with blond hair and am in my mid thirties. The Miller Eccles home in Orange Co. is where I grew up, and where my parents still live, obviously. I live in Corona with my wife and three small children. If I see you again somewhere I’ll introduce myself. We’re going to SLC for the Sunstone Symposium in August and M.H.A. in Casper, Wyoming later this month.

    As for the polygamy issue, I guess I’m from the different-strokes-for-different-folks school, with all of the obvious caveats (i.e. consenting adults, respect, equality, free agency, age of consent, etc.). I’ve read too many stories/journals of our Mormon polygamist ancestors to doubt their sincerity or happiness “living the principle”. (Of course, like monogamous marriage, unhappy examples also abound.) Polygamy in one form or another has existed for thousands of years. Human beings are amazingly adaptable, not only in their ability to survive and cope, but in their ability to love.

    Is there an optimal social/sexual/emotional relationship contract between consenting adults? I’m pretty sure I know how Joseph Smith would answer that question. I would answer by saying that every person needs to decide what works best for him/herself.

    I am getting a kick out of “Big Love” though… a fun show.

  65. Matt T. says:

    Melinda said: “I’m a bit disenchanted with the whole idea of exaltation; hence my non-PC ideas that women might really be the support staff.”

    Your honesty is refreshing. As for aspiring to merely “support staff” status: at least you have an excuse! As a man, I have to be much more creative when it comes to shrinking from Church/Priesthood responsibility. I flatter myself that I’ve become something of an expert. If only I could put this skill on my resume.

    Maybe my feminist sympathies are rooted in laziness? A pathetic attempt to pass the Priesthood buck?

  66. Eve says:

    I’m definitely late to this discussion, which seems already to have moved on to other topics, but I just have to respond to Jennifer’s comment:

    “I do not believe God would ever inspire anyone to stay away from the Temple.”

    I know of two cases of worthy temple-recommend-holding women being advised by priesthood leaders not to make the temple a part of their worship for a while, and I think in both situations it was spiritually and emotionally life-saving and sanity-preserving advice.

    As with so many things, I don’t think it’s really that much of a stretch to imagine that temple attendance is a vital priority for some–a commandment, even–but not for others, for a variety of reasons. Some people aren’t temple worthy and are working through a long, difficult repentance process. (I think in those cases we would say that NOT attending the temple is a commandment, but I don’t need to know why they’re not going!) Some people are geographically isolated and can’t attend very often. Some people have heavy family and church and other responsibilities that need to take priority in their lives for the time being–maybe they’re trying to work full time and go to school full time, for example.

    I have also seen people attend the temple so frequently that they neglect their families.

    As usual, circumstances are extremely individual, and as AmyB said so well,

    I think part of the beauty of life is that we all have our agency. I think everyone here is honestly and valiantly trying to use their agency in the best way they know how.

    I think we avoid a lot of problems if we approach people’s individual choices with this assumption. Until I’m (a) the bishop or (b) aware that my brother or sister in Christ is shooting people or passing out crack to kindergarteners, in which cases I do have a responsibility to share that information with the poor bishop who DOES have to make tough judgments based on it, I believe that what God asks of me is to leave people to His inspiration and trust them with their agency. He does. How can I call myself a Christian and do less?

  67. Caroline says:

    Thanks, Matt T. I go to Miller Eccles every other time or so, so definitely come up and say hi if you see me. I would LOVE to go to Sunstone SLC this summer, but I’m due to give birth on Aug 5, so it’s not going to happen this year.

    I respect where you are coming from when it comes to the polygamy issue. While I am a huge relativist, you beat me on this particular topic. As a side note, I also do not doubt our ancestors’ sincerity in practicing polygamy, but I do doubt their happiness in the majority of situations. From what I have read, even though they vehemently defended it, it was extremely difficult – even excruciating – a great deal of the time.

  68. Caroline says:

    Eve, thanks for your thoughtful input 🙂

    It does comfort me to know that I’m not the only one who has opted to take a break from the temple for sanity preserving motivations.

    I also would see temple attendence as an individual decision that can vary between people. I look at temple attendence as an opportunity for unique service, but it’s not an opportunity I’m willing to avail myself of if I personally find it so cripplingly painful and detrimental to my spiritual well being.

    I love your point about approaching others’ personal choices with respect for their agency and inspiration.

  69. Heather O. says:

    Wow, pretty intense thread.

    Just another thought when it comes to women and their supportive roles. Somebody questioned earlier if Sis. Hinckley went into the Holy of Holies. Frankly, I don’t know if we can say for sure that she didn’t. There are many things that we probably don’t know about how the prophet commnunes with God, nor has it fully been revealed how a person’s callng and election is made sure. But I think that is done with a spouse, and if anybody’s calling and election is made sure, it would be GBH’s. And if it happened with his spouse, there is no evidence that Sis. Hinckely could not have been invited into the Holy of Holies. At best, saying that she was not allowed is speculation. Of course, saying that she IS allowed is obviously speculation, too, but I would argue that either situation is equally likely.

    “The fact that a man has to be married to do something does not mean his wife gets to share in his opportunities.”

    I just have to reiterate my own personal belief that the temple endowment negates that statement, at least how it pertains to the afterlife. It makes it very, very clear that a woman will indeed share in the man’s responsibilities, insofar as we know what those responsibilities are. Frankly, we don’t know much (creating worlds? Being Gods? Do we really know what that means? How do you ‘organize matter’?), but it is clear that if there is any responsibility or duty asked of us to be done through the priesthood, women will be participating.

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